Historical contacts with China, Champa, and Cambodia have impacted, at different degrees, on traditional Vietnamese cooking. Thus, Vietnamese food has an interesting combination of flavors, reflecting more or less of the five fundamental tastes known as five spices, or ‘ngũ vị’: sour, spicy, salty, sweet, and bitter.
The colonization of the French also left a major influence on the modern Vietnamese cuisine, which can be visualized through the popularity of beef pho, banh mi pate, or the use of butter and wine in the kitchen. Vietnamese – French fusion, a style of cookery, has been in vogue atdeluxe restaurants in Hanoi – ‘the Paris of the East’ for decades.
The ‘5 Spices Restaurant’, located in the northern corner of the Old Quarter, seems to be the one that exposes clearly those influences and tastes on the menu it offers. From tasty chicken broth, to the flavorsome summer rolls, to the tempting sweety egg plant dish, and so on…
As trip leaders for Overseas Adventure Travel and the 5 Spices Restaurant happens to be the tour’s vendor for an included meal, very often, we take OAT groups to the place for lunch on Hanoi city tours. Our most recent visit to the venue was with seven travelers, we went there for lunch before heading to Hoan Kiem Lake for a leisure walk.
Nested in the middle of a quiet backstreet and almost tucked away from popular tourist sites in the neighborhood, but 5 Spices Restaurant is a really busy establishment. It opens up to a 1932 French colonial house with a magnificent collection of paintings, lacquers, and antiques.
When we arrived at noon, the first floor of the restaurant was already full, but a friendly waitress welcoming us directed everyone to an OAT’s reserved table on the second floor. The dinning room upstairs was elegant with dark wood furniture and a vintage chandelier – looked like a middle class Hanoian family room of some 80 years ago.
As it was prearranged by the office team, we were going to have a seven-course set menu. What everyone noticed before ordering our own drinks was that the restaurant invited us to taste its home-infused rice wine, it was almost like Jack Daniels in color and taste. A nice shot!
Our meal then started with a mild chicken noodle soup, known as ‘pho ga’ – a version of the famous Vietnamese pho. For a couple in our group, who haven’t tried this version of noodle soup before, this starter did a great job in showing them how sweet the broth and how shredded free-range chicken really taste like.
The grilled fish rolled in with ginger, fresh rice noodle and fresh dill was the specialty, which we dipped into a little soy sauce and mustard green. The flavors were really a bust! The fish was almost like the taste of the fish in Cha ca la vong, but it wasn’t greasy.
Then we had Hanoi’s style fried beef, tasty grilled eggplant with amazing golden color, and mixed fried vegetable to eat with steamed rice. We took the chance to order some extra Vietnamese spring rolls, as a traveler was asking about this dish. For dessert, we had a small amount of finely chopped fruit with vanilla ice cream. What we had was actually considered classic Vietnamese cuisine.
Overall, 5 Spices was a very nice restaurant with delicious food and a relaxed atmosphere. The staff were attentive and intuitive regarding delivery of the meal and removal of empty plates. Though the restaurant was tied to the touring tourist groups, it accommodated well individuals and passer-by travelers.
Though the food was tasty and the service was great, the restaurant did not provide any kind of wow experience. Thus, we rated it four stars, and we have no hesitate to recommend it to Hanoi visitors.
- 5 Spices Restaurant
- 27 Hong Phuc Street, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
- 024 3715 3020
- 10h30 – 14h00, 17h00 – 21h00
Join Flavors of Hanoi’s peronal foodie tour guide on our daily walking Hanoi food tour, and explore the best of what the city has to offer. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to keep updated on what’s new and what’s interesting in Hanoi.
A member in the group who we took to this restaurant emailed us, mentioned these interesting Vietnamese food blogs she’s been following since her visit to Hanoi. Just a reference, you may want to check it out to learn more about Vietnamese cuisine.